Up until a few days ago, summer in Brooklyn felt far from over. The temps were still mid-90’s and yet I couldn’t bear another meal out. Nor was cooking at home very appealing. Enter cold sesame noodles, which always sound great in theory but don’t really deliver in practice.
Smitten Kitchen to the rescue! She is a food inspiration. I don’t know how she continually creates recipes for exactly what I want exactly when I want it but she does. This one is no exception. I altered it, of course. I had gochujang, a fermented Korean spice paste handy, so in it went. I never measure so I mixed until it looked just right and added a bit of water to thin. She notes that it should be salty and pungent but not to worry and she is, of course, right. The ginger is fresh and biting, the sesame paste round, and the spice blends perfectly.
Nothing in my mind pairs better with complex dishes than tons of herbs. Tons of herbs here is cilantro and dill which seems odd buts pairs exceptionally well. I was introduced to the pairing while working at now defunct Betelnut in San Francisco where a traditional dish from Hanoi called Cha ca la vong married dill and cilantro, making their sum great than their parts.
Note: the noodles really do have to be cool or they absorb all the sauce. I made another batch with Trader Joe’s rice fusilli and it was just as good if not better. I also pureed my herbs with oil and lemon to preserve the herbs longer while retaining flavor and they melded beautifully. This sauce would also make an insanely delicious cabbage slaw or quick BBQ sauce for fish or chicken.
In any case, this is Deb’s recipe:
3/4 pound dried rice noodles (see notes up top)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, plus a splash to loosen noodles
2 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste or tahini (see note up top)
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated or brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic (from 1 medium-large clove)
Chili-garlic paste, to taste
1/2 pound cucumber, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
A handful of chopped fresh herbs, such as mint and cilantro, for garnish